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Yick Wo, the earliest case in this set, involved a challenge by a Chinese-American to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' decision to deny him a license to operate a wooden laundry. Yick Wo alleged discrimination, pointing out that 79 out of 80 non-Chinese who applied for laundry licenses received them, but only 1 out of 200 Chinese applicants were issued licenses. The Court accepted that Yick Wo's statistical evidence made out a prima facie case of a violation of the Constitution.
Washington v. Davis was a challenge to Washington D. C.'s practice of requiring applicants for the city police force to pass a verbal skills test. Because of better performance on the verbal skills test, whites were 60% of those passing the test, even though they were only 40% of the applicant pool. In considering a challenge by black applicants to the city's use of the test, the Court concluded that a showing of disproportionate impact based on race was not sufficient to make out an equal protection violation. Absent proof that the decision to employ the test was motivated by a desire to discriminate, Washington D. C. need only demonstrate a rational basis for using the test. Arlington Heights has been called a primer for city officials anxious to discriminate, but concerned about civil rights suits. The Court's decision, in setting out a difficult standard for plaintiffs to meet in proving discriminatory purpose, tells city officials exactly what they must avoid doing to avoid liability. Arlington Heights holds that to establish a prima facie case of an equal protection violation, the person alleging discrimination must first show (through use of legislative history, a pattern of events, or departures from usual procedures) that discrimination was a motivating factor in the decision. Then, according to the Court, the burden shifts to the city to show that the same decision would have resulted even if the discriminatory motive was not present.
Proving Discrimination Under the Equal Protection Clause
1. The person alleging discrimination, in the absence of a statutory classification, must show that a discriminatory purpose was a MOTIVATING factor in the government's action or decision.
Note: A motivating factor need not the the SOLE factor in the decision.
A motivating factor need not be the PRIMARY factor in the decision.
2. To show that a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor, the following evidence could be offered:
(1) Evidence that the action or decision has a disproportionate impact on the class--the more disproportionate the impact, the stonger the evidence.
(2) Statements by government decision-makers suggesting a discriminatory purpose:
--Statements at the time of decision
--Statements at the time of trial
(3) A suspicious pattern of events leading up to the decision
(4) Evidence that the decision was a departure from usual procedures
3. If a discriminatory purpose is established, the government can defend its decision by showing that the same decision would have been made even without the discriminatory purpose.
For the differences I think you mean the level of scrutinyThe Court finally settled on an intermediate scrutiny (important state interest and substantially related means) approach in Craig v Boren, invalidating a law that banned the sale of 3.2% beer to 18 to 20-year-old males, while allowing purchase by females of the same age. The same test resulted in a decision in 1981 upholding a California law that allowed males, but not females, to be charged with statutory rape (Michael M. v. Superior Court). Taken together, the two cases suggest the unpredictability of the intermediate scrutiny test used by the Court.Levels of Scrutiny Under the Three-Tiered Approach to Equal Protection Analysis 1. STRICT SCRUTINY (The government must show that the challenged classification serves a compelling state interest and that the classification is necessary to serve that interest.): A. Suspect Classifications: 1. Race 2. National Origin 3. Religion (either under EP or Establishment Clause analysis) 4. Alienage (unless the classification falls within a recognized "political community" exception, in which case only rational basis scrutiny will be applied). B. Classifications Burdening Fundamental Rights 1. Denial or Dilution of the Vote 2. Interstate Migration 3. Access to the Courts 4. Other Rights Recognized as Fundamental 2. MIDDLE-TIER SCRUTINY (The government must show that the challenged classification serves an important state interest and that the classification is at least substantially related to serving that interest.): Quasi-Suspect Classifications: 1. Gender 2. Illegitimacy 3. MINIMUM (OR RATIONAL BASIS) SCRUTINY (The govenment need only show that the challenged classification is rationally related to serving a legitimate state interest.) Minimum scrutiny applies to all classifications other than those listed above, although some Supreme Court cases suggest a slightly closer scrutiny ("a second-order rational basis test") involving some weighing of the state's interest may be applied in cases, for example, involving classifications that disadvantage mentally retarded people, homosexuals, or innocent children of illegal aliens.